March 22, 2021

Rossini's greatest hits

Across a span of 20 years, Gioachino Rossini wrote 39 operas, five of them in 1812 alone. Though the Italian composer retired from composing operas at age 37, and lived to be 76, his musical legacy lives on. In honor of our new digital series, The Sonata Sessions, we've compiled a list of some of Rossini's "greatest hits."

Be sure to check out our full Spotify playlist for even more and find The Sonata Sessions streaming on Lyric's Facebook and YouTube beginning March 30.

"Largo al factotum" from The Barber of Seville

If you sing the name "Figaro" to just about anyone on the street, there's a pretty good chance they'll respond with "Figaro! Figaro! Fig-aaa-roooooh!" Rossini's The Barber of Seville remains a mainstay in popular culture thanks to its inclusion in countless commercials, blockbuster films, and cartoons. The opera's most popular aria, "Largo al factotum," has been sung by everyone from Robin Williams in Mrs. Doubtfire to two of the world's most famous cartoon cats: Sylvester in Back Alley Oproar and Tom (of Tom and Jerry) in The Cat Above and the Mouse Below.

 

William Tell Overture

No list of Rossini's greatest hits would be complete without the famous overture from his final grand opera, William Tell. This lively song has been featured (and parodied) in countless television shows, movies, and commercials, and is perhaps most widely known as the theme song for The Lone Ranger.

 

"Sì, ritrovarla io giuro" from La Cenerentola

The story of Cinderella has been told time and time again. This aria finds Prince Charming searching for his mysterious midnight woman, assured of their happy ending. "Sì, ritrovarla io giuro" is a terrific tenor showpiece and one of the most exciting vocal highights of Rossini's La Cenerentola.

 

"Non piu mesta" from La Cenerentola

Angelina's aria "Non piu mesta" from La Cenerentola is the perfect example of Rossini's love for mezzo-sopranos, particularly coloratura mezzo-sopranos. Rossini didn't simply sideline this voice type as supporting characters or "witches and britches" roles. He made them the leading lady who gets her man in the end.

 

"Ah! quel giorno ognor rammento" from Semiramide

Semiramide was both Rossini's final opera written in Italian and the last in a series of opera seria (or serious opera). It premiered in 1823, and is said to have taken Rossini only 33 days to compose. This opera is made to showcase a fierce soprano/mezzo-soprano (or contralto) duo, but one of its main highlights is Arsace's Act I aria, "Ah! quel giorno ognor rammento," in which Arsace sings of his love for Princess Azema.

 

"Que les destins prospères" from Le Comte Ory

Le Comte Ory has made a comeback in recent years thanks to an influx of Rossini tenors like Lawrence Brownlee, Javier Camarena, and Juan Diego Flórez. The opera features some of Rossini's most colorful orchestral writing and calls for a trio of outstanding bel canto singers. The tenor aria "Que les destins prospères," sung by the title character, allows the singer to show off both his comedic and vocal chops.

 

"Tanti affetti in tal momento" from La donna del Lago

While not often performed, La donna del Lago is considered by many to be Rossini's most tuneful and engaging opera. There are a number of highlights from soloists as well as the larger ensemble, and the true gem is Elena's final aria "Tanti affetti in tal momento," which is easily one of the best examples of bel canto singing.

 

L'italiana in Algeri Overture

Written when Rossini was just 21 years old, L'italiana in Algeri is a notable mix of his two loves: serious drama and comedy. The overture is packed full of surprises; starting off slow and quiet before a sudden burst of sound from the full orchestra. It's easy to see why it is one of the composer's most widely recorded and performed pieces today.

 

"Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville

One of Rossini's most famous arias is undoubtedly "Una voce poco fa," Rosina's dazzling entrance aria from The Barber of Seville. A splendid showpiece for the composer's beloved mezzo-sopranos, it's often sung in recitals and is a definite highlight of Rossini's most popular opera.

 

 

 

If you're a fan of Gioachino Rossini's operas, you'll love Lyric's new digital series The Sonata Sessions. Conducted by Music Director Designate Enrique Mazzola, each video will feature one of Rossini's six sonatas for strings performed by members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Written when the composer was just 12 years old, these lesser known (yet much loved) pieces were originally written for a string quartet. Hear them performed by an enhanced string ensemble, free of charge on Lyric's Facebook and YouTube channels beginning March 30.

Header photo (left to right): John Osborn as Count Almaviva, Joyce DiDonato as Rosina, and Philip Kraus as Dr. Bartolo in Lyric's 2007/08 production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville. Credit: Robert Kusel

Photo: Kyle Flubacker